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Johnny E. Balsved


The Interim Years (1919-1939):

 Surveying by H.M. II (Heinkel H.E.8) sea plane in Greenland

Surveying by H.M. II (Heinkel H.E.8) sea plane in Greenland.
(Photo: Archives of the Royal Danish Naval Museum)

 The Interim Years
A bare bones Navy

The First World War was believed to be the war to end all wars, its end, therefore, meant a severe cut in both naval material and personnel

New defense settlements dictated cut after cut and left a navy without a real framework or objectives. Politicians were immune to reasoned arguments from top navy commanders.

The navy was successful in keeping its submarine fleet and increasing the importance of the naval air service. The threatening clouds of war once again gathering over Europe were, however, discovered much too late.

By Johnny E. Balsved/translated by Robert Rayce

Immediately after the end of the great war, an understandable loathing of all military institutions became widespread. The navy, like the army, experienced drastic cuts in the inter-war period.

These cuts crippled the education and training programs of the navy. Considering the lack of maintenance and replacement, it was incredible the navy was able to uphold so high a standard as it did.

The first defense settlement of 1922 cut the navy's budget by 25 %, and in 1932, it suffered yet a cut. This marked a historic all-time low for the Navy.

Establishing the Submarine division

 Six Danish subs at sea in the interim years

Six Danish subs at sea in the interim years. At the fore, two D class subs, DRYADEN and DAPHNE. Behind them two C class subs with BELLONA in front. To the rear of the picture, just visible, two B class subs.
(Photo: Archives of the Royal Danish Naval Museum)

The submarine, as a weapon, had proven its worth during the First World War while protecting Danish neutrality. It was also one of the few arms of the navy that was unaffected by the cuts between the two world wars.

The submarines were consolidated in the Submarine Division in 1922, and were the most active part of the Danish naval defenses in the entire interim period.

In 1920, three boats of the new C class were added to the fleet. In 1926, two D class subs joined while some of the older A and B class subs were decomissioned. Even so, the Navy had, in periods, more than ten working submarines at its command.

Most of the submarines were always operative because of the need of battery maintenance.

The Naval Air Service

During the First World War, the navy had its own naval air service, and it was expanded in the interim years, at first by buying flying boats from foreign countries.

Later, the naval dockyards began manufacturing airplanes under license.

The naval air service's primary tasks were reconnaissance and direction of artillery fire. Navy sea planes were also used in hydrographic surveys off the coast of Greenland.

Up through the 1930's, inspection ships were equipped with sea planes.

 The inspection ship INGOLF loading a sea plane

The inspection ship INGOLF loading a sea plane.
(Photo: Archives of the Royal Danish Naval Museum)

The GEJSER explosion

In the spring of 1923, the cruiser GEJSER was anchored in the Småland waters with the Training Squadron when an explosion occurred. [Read the complete story]

The explosion occurred on the cruiser's quarterdeck during a demonstration of a new phosphorous fog device. The Training Squadron's captains, with others, were present on the GEJSER's quarterdeck when the explosion occurred.

One of the commanders present died shortly after and 55 others were injured. Many of them needed long sick leaves before returning to active duty. Some never did return.

Several officers were disfigured for life and had to go through extensive surgery and years of special treatment in England.

 The cruiser GEJSER

The cruiser GEJSER, shown here in a photo from 1926, was, on May 25, 1923 struck by an explosion, which killed one person and injured another 55.
(Photo: Archives of the Royal Danish Naval Museum)

More cuts

In 1932, yet another defense settlement resulted in more cuts in the Navy's numbers.

Even so, three new torpedo boats of the GLENTEN class, an inspection ship (INGOLF), and two survey ships, HEJMDAL and FREJA, were built during the following 5 years.

These additions, however, were unable to compensate for the retirement of obsolete material.

The reductions were so severe the newly appointed naval inspector; Henri Wenck chose to retire from his position in March 1932 after just four months on the job.

Therefore, the responsibility for carrying out the defense settlement was left to its main creator, Rear Admiral Hjalmar Rechnitzer.

Vice Admiral Henri Wenck

Vice Admiral Henri Wenck

Once again, war clouds gather over Europe

With Hitler's ascension to power in Germany in 1933 war clouds began, once again, to gather over Europe. The consequence of this was a governmental revision of the defense settlement in 1937.

The Navy was granted more funds and the building of new ships began immediately, among these four H class submarines and six SØLØVEN class minesweepers. However, the fourth submarine and three of the minesweepers were unfinished at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Further, project work began for a mine ship, the LINDORMEN, two minelayers, LOUGEN and LAALAND, and two large torpedo boats NYMFEN and NAJADEN. The latter two, however, were not finished until after the Second World War and were renamed WILLEMOES and HUITFELDT.

At the onset of the war in September 1939, the navy was of so modest a size that it was powerless against the German fleet. It was also incapable of defending possible Danish neutrality, as had been the case in the First World War.

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Danmarks Flaade, by Lieutenant Commander K. Dahl og H. Hjorth-Nielsen, Published by Selskabet til udgivelse af Kulturskrifter, Copenhagen, 1934


Flåden gennem 450 år, by Steen R. Steensen, Martins Forlag, 2nd edition, Copenhagen, 1970 (ISBN87-566-0009-7)


Orlogsmuseet - Introduktion til Flådens historie, by Ole Lisberg Jensen, Royal Danish Naval Museum, Copenhgaen 1994 (ISBN 87-89322-14-2)

44You are also referred to the Naval Bibliography

- Do you miss a major event on this Site,
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Disaster on the GEJSER (1923)


The Navy before 1801


Wars against England (1801-1814)


Reconstructing the Navy (1814-1848)


The 1st Schleswig War (1848-50)


The interim War Years (1850-64)


The 2nd Schleswig War (1864)


The long Period of Peace (1864-1914)


The Navy during the 1st World War (1914-1918)


The Interim Years (1919-1939)


The Navy during the 2nd World War (1939-1945)


The Cold War Period (1945-1989)


The Navy after 1989



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This page was first published: March 11, 2006

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